In the early 21st century, the late comedian George Carlin defined "Child Worship" as an "excessive devotion to children by professional parents." Of course, he is a comedian, so he also described these parents as "obsessive diaper sniffers," who are "over-managing their children and robbing them of their childhood." He refers to those who fill their child's day planners with structured play dates and tutors and teams, etc. instead of allowing them good ol' fashioned play time (playing in the dirt with a stick).
Carlin's main objection to Child Worship seems to be it's contribution to the "self-esteem movement," which he said causes children to experience an artificially indoctrinated notion that they're "special" and "perfect" as if everything they do is wonderful and they have no flaws. Not to say Carlin implied that all children are terrible, rather he asserts that they are merely "incomplete works." You know, still learning things. Making plenty of mistakes in the process. The biggest fault Carlin finds with this "specialness training" is that we are breeding a generation of narcissist.
What's so great about having high self-esteem he quips? "All sociopaths have high self-esteem."
He goes on to say "A lot of kids never get to hear the truth about themselves until they're in their twenties when their boss fires them."
I will admit that as a parent, I can be guilty of Child Worship. I adore my children. Beyond adore. I talk about them all the time. It's hard for me to have a conversation with someone and not bring up a reference to them (or Superman). What's funny is that I'm aware I do it, self-conscious of it really. I can sometimes sense people's disinterest or even annoyance. But I can't seem to stop. The more I try to suppress it, the more it seems to pour out like word-vomit. Because they are my world. My life revolves around those three guys, and I feel like most things I experience are somehow entwined with at least one of them.
My office is filled, and I mean FILLED, with pictures of my family. Baby pictures. School pictures. Old Christmas cards. A wall calendar with collages of their pictures. A digital picture frame on constant rotate of their faces.
Even on Valentine's Day, a day meant for lovers, Superman and I gave one another cards*, but made bags filled with candy and treats attached to heart shaped balloons for the loves of our lives...our boys.
*Although, I must brag on Superman for sneaking a cute balloon into my car while I was at work. It was a sweet surprise to come out to at 5 pm.
Hello, I even started a blog about them!
But as much as I allow my life and love to be consumed by these 3.5 foot creatures, I do try to keep it in perspective. I admit my kids aren't perfect. Far from. I know they are super rambunctious, loud, obstinate, stubborn, and independent to a point of being frustrating. And we are working on that. They are behind in speech development. We are working on that. They took almost 15 months to completely potty train. Luckily, I think we are done (knock on wood) working on that.
And I know Superman and I aren't perfect parents. I won't dare to speak for him on his parenting-weaknesses, but I will admit that I have plenty. I'm impatient, get frustrated and lose my temper. I yell too much. I complain about being gone from them all day, but once I get home I will use just about any excuse to try and keep from playing trains on the ground with them. And I can be lazy, letting things I know they should do slide because I'm too tired to force them to do it (flossing!).
But I don't beat myself up too much. Sure, somedays I feel like the world's worst mother. But then my son says an unprompted "I love you mommy" or I get a hand drawn Valentine's Day card with a train on it that says "I choo-choo-choose you Valentine" and all of that melts away. I don't need my sons to become doctors that cure cancer, go to Harvard, or even get all As to feel like I succeeded as a parent. I just want them to be happy, healthy, and normal.
Sure, I sign them up for music class, swim class, and tee-ball, but that's not because I think they need it to get ahead in this world, but because I have fond memories of being involved with these kinds of things when I was a kid. The majority of my best childhood friendships formed not on a playground, but as part of an extracurricular activity.
And much more than wanting my boys to be accomplished or to "feel special", I just want to teach them to be kind, loving, good people who are thoughtful and considerate of others and their feelings. I want them to be the kids in the class that are nice to everyone...from the little ESL boy who doesn't speak any English to the chubby kid everyone else teases to yes, even the bully who is mean to them.
It broke my heart yesterday to hear certain kids in their preschool class say "I'm not giving Valentine's to Thing1 and Thing2". And I wondered, what in the world would make a child at 3, 4, or 5 years old already be so mean? Do their parents know their child would say something like this? Would their parents care or chalk it up to "Oh, you know kids..."? To me, this is unacceptable behavior. If Thing1 or Thing2 ever said such a thing about one of their classmates, I would tell them they gave out cards to everyone or no one. Because I feel strongly that we are teaching our children right now how to treat others. Are the kids who are exclusionary of their peers in preschool the ones who start hate-campaigns on Facebook as teenagers? The ones that are cliquy and backstabbing as adults? Or is it merely a stage all kids go through and will simply outgrow? I don't know, but I'm not taking that chance with my kids. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" is something I strongly believe in and am determined to teach my children to observe. And that means that not everyone has to be your friend, but you still have to be nice to them.
I'm just glad that right now Thing1 and Thing2 are too young to truly understood the whole Valentine's Day thing. They didn't seem to hear the offending statements, or at least understand or care, nor notice in the mass confusion of card giving if they were missing a few from certain classmates. They were perfectly happy handing out their cards with treats to ALL of their classmates. Which made me happy and proud of them.
And if being concerned about my 3 year olds' feelings over something as trivial as Valentine's Day cards makes George Carlin categorize me as a "Child Worshipping" parent, than bring on the religious car emblem, because I'll display it proudly. Right next to my "My child is nice to your Honor Roll student" bumper sticker.